Wirral households could be missing out on £91m in unclaimed benefits

More than £91m in benefits could be unclaimed by eligible households in Wirral.

Policy in Practice, a social policy data analytics company, said the figure is its best estimate on a local level for how much money people aren’t claiming in benefits from the government, local councils, and water and energy companies. The company has previously worked with London Mayor Sadiq Khan to help older pensioners get unclaimed pension credit.

The company estimates £91,247,287 is unclaimed in Wirral, including 7,000 households not claiming £29.8m in Universal Credit and more than 18,165 households not claiming £18.2m in council tax support.

Other estimated funds left unclaimed is £6.5m in child benefit, £14m for the carers allowance, and £11.6m in pension credit. It also estimates tens of thousands of people aren’t claiming broadband and water support and 4,580 people who are eligible aren’t claiming free school meals

Deven Ghelani, the company’s director, said the figures hope to highlight issues people face when trying to claim benefits and accessing support if they need it. When he lost his job 15 years ago, Mr Ghelani wasn’t told he could claim housing benefits for nearly two months.

He said, “There are three reasons. One is the system can be very confusing. People do not know about the schemes. A lot of the schemes have been introduced since the pandemic not just by the government but also local councils and water companies, but also people do not want to claim. There is a lot of negative coverage around it and people think “I do not want to claim myself because I don’t know what people will think of me.””

He added: “Someone might have worked all their life and they don’t have a very good pension but wouldn’t claim pension credit because it is not something they have had to do before. There’s a negative stigma attached to it.”

While he said systems like Universal Credit had made things simpler, accessing support is still complicated for many people. He added, “If you do not let people know what they are missing out on, you are not making a difference. The government brought in the household support fund with six weeks notice and actually you need to let people know that the scheme exists.”

To estimate their figures, Policy in Practice look at things like demographics in the area, information about the benefits and support provided on a local level, and take-up rates in the North West region.

The figures for Wirral have been cited in a motion brought forward by Wirral Green councillors Amanda Onwuemene and Ruth Molyneux. It said, “Deep poverty increasingly affects adults who are in employment but unable to meet the increasing costs of rent, food and bills. Poverty kills potential in children who are often too hungry, cold and tired to learn, sleep or play. In adults, poverty and debt have a negative effect on a person’s mental health, their confidence and self-esteem.”

The motion calls on the council’s finance and public health directors to investigate what additional information about unclaimed support is available and look at how the council can further support people. This will be voted on by all councillors on December 4.

Similar concerns about a lack of awareness around support have previously been highlighted by Wirral’s Conservative group. Cllr Jeff Green proposed a motion on 10 July requesting council officers “actively promote this support across all the Council’s communication channels on a regular basis.”

The motion also highlighted help available through the energy bills support scheme, the pensioner and disability cost of living statements, and the Household Support Fund.

Policy in Practice said people can find out if they’re potentially entitled to benefits through calculators on the government’s website , Policy in Practice , and numerous other websites. Information on emergency financial support  can be found through Wirral Council as well as other forms of support including council tax support, housing benefit, and free school meals

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